A new genuinely affordable housing development with 238 apartments for seniors and low-income families, a food co-op, workforce development program, and community-owned Internet service will rise on a huge vacant swathe at the corner of Fulton Street and Saratoga Avenue in Bed-Stuy, plans released by the city detail.
The Steps at Saratoga, as the complex will be known, is one of five all-affordable housing developments envisioned in the community-led Bedford-Stuyvesant Housing Plan and slated to rise on city owned land. Combined, the five sites are expected to bring roughly 600 affordable apartments to the neighborhood.
The site of the future The Steps at Saratoga comprises lots from 2014 Fulton Street to 2042 Fulton Street, all owned by the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency. The stretch has largely been vacant lots since at least the 1980s and previously consisted mostly of a row of small 19th century buildings with storefronts, old tax photos show.
In 2020, the city released a request for proposals for the development, and on Thursday it announced it had selected a plan submitted by nonprofits RiseBoro and IMPACCT Brooklyn and partner Urbane Development.
The team’s project will have two buildings with approximately 238 apartments, including 158 for low-income families and 80 for seniors. The senior building will be available to households earning up to 50 percent of the Area Median Income, or a max of $46,700 for a single-person household. The family building will be available to those earning between 30 and 80 percent of AMI, or from $36,030 to $96,080 a year, for a household of three.
Approximately 49 of the apartments will be set aside for those who are formerly homeless, including 25 for families and 24 for seniors, the city said.
The development, designed by architecture firm Marvel, will include a multi-use backyard space shared by the two buildings on the first and second levels, and two shared community gardens at higher levels, the city’s press release states. The building set aside for families will have a fitness room, laundry on every residential floor, a game room, a children’s playroom, and a landscaped rooftop terrace. The senior building will have a communal laundry room, a wellness room, computer room, and a private landscaped terrace. Residents will be able to grow their own food in the rooftop gardens.
The proposal fits into the city’s request for a development focused on “wellness and healing” by including programming focusing on “advancing food justice, strengthening the local economy, improving health outcomes, creating safe affordable housing, and prioritizing community voices and connections,” the city said in a press release.
RiseBoro will provide a range of services including a resident nurse and community health workers on site. The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives and RiseBoro’s Worker Coop Development Program “will share space for incubating and supporting cooperatively-owned micro-enterprises”; RiseBoro’s will be food related. There will also be a small business incubator operated by Urbane Development and small business and merchant support run by IMPACCT Brooklyn.
The Central Brooklyn Food Cooperative, a Black-led community project, will run a grocery store in a ground-floor retail space on site. The Saratoga Food Incubator will “operate a front-of-house demonstration kitchen to promote food literacy, and a back-of-house commercial kitchen to develop local food businesses,” the release said.
Other urban farming, food, and health programs will include a greenhouse cultivated by the Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation and a Care for the Elderly Center run by RiverSpring Health Plans.
The Steps at Saratoga will be one of the few complexes in New York to provide community-owned broadband Internet service. The service will offer affordable Internet access to residents and organizations in the complex, as well as nearby local businesses, the release said.
The project is also among the first to meet HPD’s new equitable ownership requirements mandating city-financed projects on public land include minority- and women-owned businesses and nonprofits.
Bernell Grier, the executive director of IMPACCT Brooklyn, said in the press release the development team was progressing “beyond ‘building affordable’ to ‘building sustainable.’”
“This project will help to lay strong foundations for the establishment of a localized ecosystem that can help our community improve and maintain wellbeing for the long haul in a comprehensive way because a holistic vision lies at the heart of it all,” Grier said. She added the organization’s goal for the project is to strengthen small business and “catalyze local economic revitalization” in the neighborhood.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said in the release the development is a defining example of responsible development in Brooklyn. “With a firm commitment to affordability, public health, and community connections, this proposal responds to the needs of the neighborhood and challenges the status quo of new developments.”
The release did not mention when the complex is slated to open. Typically, construction of 100 percent affordable housing of this size on city owned land takes about two years from breaking ground to move-in.
The project is one of two that will be built as part of the city’s Bedford Stuyvesant Community Wealth and Wellness RFP. The city announced in December 2021 that the first site, another vacant lot on Fulton Street near Howard Avenue, will be developed by Almat Urban and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation into an 11-story building with 44 affordable homes and a ground floor urgent care facility.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant Housing Plan, previously known as the Bed Stuy Housing Initiative and released in 2020, is not only about building affordable rental housing. Goals include combating deed theft and housing speculation, promoting healthy housing, supporting tenants and homeowners, and building affordable homes for sale.
This story first appeared on Brownstoner.